The first S.C. Department of Natural Resources co-sponsored wild turkey hunt for persons permanently confined to a wheelchair was held in the Upstate on Saturday, April 13.
This special hunt was conducted in Newberry County at a private hunting lease and is another example of the ongoing partnership among various private landowners in the Upstate and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The hunt was a tremendous success overall, but it was especially so for Jeff Cooper of Camden who took his first gobbler on his first turkey hunt. Cooper, who has been in a wheelchair for 30 years, said that he was sincerely appreciative to have such an exciting outdoor recreational opportunity.
This event was made possible first by the generosity of an anonymous donor whose financial contribution to the Harry Hampton Memorial Wildlife Fund provided funding for all expenses, which included food and lodging, and secondly by a private individual, Brett Bannister, who took the participants hunting on his private hunting lease. Bannister and his friend and co-worker, Kevin Roosen, guided the hunters and did the turkey calling for the hunt participants. Bannister and Roosen are both DNR wildlife enforcement officers in Newberry County. Dr. Wallace Boyd planned the event and coordinated all activities relating to the hunt. The Union DNR office handled the publicity, application and selection process and the notification of the hunters.
Two lucky hunters were randomly selected from about 60 persons permanently in a wheelchair that have been attending the Upstate mobility impaired deer hunts in recent years. These hunters were treated to an all expenses paid weekend of good food, great fellowship and a truly outstanding hunting opportunity. Each of the hunters was able to bring someone with them to share their experience and assist them in a non-hunting capacity.
The hunt participants and their assistants had supper at a downtown restaurant in Newberry and then spent Friday night at the Hampton Inn. Breakfast and lunch on Saturday were at the landowner’s hunting camp, and the hunt participants hunted both during Saturday morning and afternoon. One gobbler was harvested and both hunters saw numerous wild turkeys, heard lots of gobbling activity and greatly enjoyed their hunting experience.
Since this first wheelchair turkey hunt was highly successful and was such a memorable event for both participants and hosts, plans are being made for another spring turkey hunt next year. If funding is available and additional hosts in Cherokee, Laurens, Newberry, Spartanburg and Union counties become involved, hopefully significantly more hunters can be accommodated next spring. Information about becoming a host or making a donation to the Harry Hampton Memorial Wildlife Fund for these type events can be obtained by contacting Gerald Moore, wildlife biologist at the Union DNR Office, at (864) 427-5140.
Hunters permanently in wheelchairs should also plan to take advantage of the mobility impaired deer hunts held during the fall that are co-sponsored by the DNR in cooperation with numerous Upstate private landowners. An application for the special deer hunts will be available soon from the Union DNR Office, 124 Wildlife Drive, Union, S C 29379, telephone (864) 427-5140; DNR Columbia Office, PO Box 167, Columbia, SC 29202, telephone (803) 734-3886, or they can be downloaded from the DNR website.
Image courtesy South Carolina Department of Natural Resources